Online retailers accelerate growth plans to combat COVID

Three quarters of UK online businesses are experiencing a negative impact on their business due to COVID-19 - and even in the long term, the number stating that the pandemic will have a negative effect on them (45 per cent) outweighs those that believe it will have a positive impact on their business (31 per cent).

That’s according to a survey from payments platform Paysafe among 1,100 small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) globally which operate online.

Despite this overall outlook, 30 per cent of businesses have seen an increase in profit margin (versus 26 per cent which saw a decrease), 36 per cent have seen an uptick in customers (versus 27 per cent which saw a decline), and just over a quarter (26 per cent) believe they are better positioned to enter new geographical markets, as opposed to 20 per cent which say they were not.

Businesses have had no choice but to welcome change, with over a third (36 per cent) suggesting that COVID-19 has increased their ability to innovate.

Around 84 per cent of those surveyed have had to alter their operations to appeal to a broader target market with adapting digital strategies forming a core part of this. Of the businesses that made changes, 78 per cent specifically diversified their payment offerings, and as a direct result, 66 per cent saw an increase in sales.

The importance of a seamless online checkout has been reinforced with the introduction of new consumer payment preferences. Some 37 per cent of online brands have already integrated at least one new payment method into the checkout, whereas 55 per cent plan to introduce at least one more in the near future.

With an increase in the variety of different payment methods used by consumers since the outbreak of the pandemic, 37 per cent of respondents have noticed an increase in the percentage of consumers using digital wallets and 20 per cent have observed customers using cryptocurrencies more often - over half of businesses (57 per cent) now view their payment offerings as a priority.

Almost a third of businesses surveyed (32 per cent) said that consumers are using new methods to track their spending more accurately, while 27 per cent believe consumers are re-evaluating the role technology plays in their lives. As people are becoming more familiar with digital payments, according to businesses 29 per cent of consumers are valuing a more seamless experience online.

Paulette Rowe, chief executive of e-commerce solutions at Paysafe, commented: “The shift to online has forced retailers to take a fresh look at the checkout experience and assess whether it is user friendly as well as secure.

"Now that customers are more willing to use different payment methods there is an opportunity to innovate at the checkout."

To compile this data, Paysafe commissioned a survey by Sapio Research among 1,100 online businesses based in the US, UK, Canada, Bulgaria, Italy, Austria, and Germany, and 350 businesses that predominately sell products or services in-store based in the US and Canada, between 9 and 18 September.

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